His Excellency received Sir Moses very kindly, wrote to Count Nesselrode, enclosing Sir Moses' letters to him, and eventually obtained an appointment for Sir Moses for the following Sunday.
April 4th.—Both Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore found the climate very trying. Visitors who called on them reported that there was not a house in the city that had not three or four of its inmates confined by illness (an epidemic catarrh, generally called in Russia and Germany, "Grippe"), which had greatly increased the mortality of the city.
April 5th.—At one o'clock Sir Moses visited Count Nesselrode. We were at once received by him in a very friendly manner. He said he had already spoken to the Emperor about Sir Moses. The latter informed the Count of the two purposes for which he came to St Petersburg, viz., the establishment of Jewish schools, and the repeal of the two Ukases for the removal of the Jews from the frontiers. This, the Count said, was not in his department, but the Government was at present engaged on the amendment of those Ukases, and that he should be happy to render Sir Moses all the assistance in his power in furtherance of his objects. Sir Moses then spoke to him respecting the cultivation of land, and the Count said that his views were in strict accordance with those of the Government; that he wished to raise the Jews, and make them more useful members of society; that the cream of the Jews were in England, France, and Germany, but that those in the ancient provinces of the Russian Empire and Poland were engaged in low traffic and contraband pursuits.
Sir Moses expressed his deep regret to hear the Minister's opinion, for which he was not prepared. He then said to his Excellency that he should be happy to be presented to the Emperor; the Count told him he would ask His Majesty, and requested Sir Moses to call on Count Ouvaroff, the Minister of Public Instruction, at one o'clock on the following day. He again repeated his desire to render him every assistance.
In the course of the day Sir Moses left his card and letters of introduction at Count Orloff's.
April 6th.—We called to-day on Count Ouvaroff, with whom we remained an hour and a half in conversation. He assured Sir Moses, for himself and on the part of his colleagues, that the measures of the Government for the organisation of the Jewish schools were designed for their improvement and happiness, and not with the slightest intention of conversion to another religion, but to make them more useful members of society, and to fit them for advancement. He also assured Sir Moses that the Government had some plans for a more liberal treatment, but that the Jews must first prepare themselves.
"The Jews of Russia," he said, "were different from the Jews in other parts of the world; they were orthodox, and believed in the Talmud," which he considered false. "They were ignorant of their own religion; and he was obliged to force them to study Hebrew, their own language." Sir Moses defended the principles of those who strictly adhere to the doctrines of their religion. As to the Talmud, he pointed out to the Minister the great esteem in which that work is held by pious and learned Christians.
In support of this view, I reminded His Excellency of what Buxtorf said on the subject in his "Abbreviations,"[A] and in the preface to his great Chaldaic and Talmudical Lexicon:—
"The Talmud," that Christian Divine states, "is a learned work, or a large corpus of erudition; it contains manifold learning in all sciences; it teaches the most explicit and most complete, civil and canonical law of the Jews, so that the whole nation, as well as their Synagogue, might live thereby in a state of happiness,—in the most desirable way.
"It is the most luminous commentary of the Scriptural law as well as its supplement and support.
"It contains much excellent teaching on jurisprudence, medicine, natural philosophy, ethics, politics, astronomy, and other branches of science, which make one think highly of the history of that nation and of the time in which the work was written."
[Footnote A: De abreviat. hebr. (auct. Joh. Buxt. I.), p. 1.]
I mentioned to His Excellency the names of Buxtorf the younger, Dr Johannus Reuchlin, Johannes Meyer, Selden, Joh. Morinus, Sebastian Munster, Surenhusius, and quoted most of their statements on the subject.
With reference to the Russian Jews' knowledge of Hebrew and of their own religion, I called His Excellency's attention to the numerous works they had produced on all subjects connected with Hebrew literature and poetry.
The Minister, however, resumed his arguments, saying they should first be educated before full facilities to gain a living should be given them; although he allowed that, to a certain degree, persecution had made them what they are. He further said that the Government were now adopting a new plan, and were treating the Jews with toleration, liberality, and love, but it would take a long time, he remarked—perhaps a century—before any difference would be perceptible. He did not consider the present generation, and only thought of the future. He concluded by observing the Jews were loyal subjects, and immediately complied with every order of the Government.
Sir Moses pressed repeatedly upon His Excellency the necessity of relieving them from the anxiety and suffering to which they were subjected in respect to the Ukases for their removal from the frontiers and villages; upon which the Minister observed, "They were not executed, and were very different in effect to what they appeared on paper, and that the Government were engaged on their consideration;" and he several times repeated that the Government were desirous of raising the Jews and removing the prejudices which still exist against them, but it required time, and the Jews must assist by their improvement and attendance at the schools. Sir Moses assured him that the fear of attempts at conversion was the only cause of their hesitation to conform to his wishes. The interview then terminated, His Excellency having throughout been most friendly and polite.
On our return home Mr and Mrs Bloomfield paid a long visit to Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore, and spoke principally on the subject connected with our visit to St Petersburg.
He gave Sir Moses a letter just received from Count Nesselrode, stating that the Emperor would receive him on the following day at one o'clock. Sir Moses showed him the address which he wished to deliver to His Majesty. His Excellency thought it would do very well. Sir Moses then said he was anxious that Count Nesselrode should see it. Mr Bloomfield thought he might call on him to-morrow morning. Sir Moses, however, was of opinion that it would be better to go there at once, and take his chance of seeing him.
Immediately after the British Ambassador and his wife had left us we went to Count Nesselrode, who received us, read the paper over, and suggested some alterations.
In the evening we dined with the British Ambassador. Mr Bloomfield being unwell, could not join the company at table. There were present Count Nesselrode's daughter and her husband, the Saxon Ambassador, the Austrian Ambassador, Mr and Mrs Buchanan, and several other gentlemen.
Wednesday, April 8th.—Sir Moses, in order to be ready to attend His Majesty, had just put on his uniform when he received a message from Count Nesselrode, saying that the Emperor would see him on the morrow instead of on that day.
April 9th.—The entry of this day in the diary records the audience with His Majesty the Emperor:—"Praised be the God of our fathers. At one o'clock this day I had the honour of an interview with His Imperial Majesty the Emperor. I made the strongest appeal in my power for the general alteration of all laws and edicts that pressed heavily on the Jews under His Majesty's sway."
The following is a copy of the address to the Emperor:—
"May it please your Imperial Majesty. With deep veneration for your Majesty's person and government, and with fervent prayers to the Most High, that your Majesty may continue to be for many, many years the happy and exalted ruler of a powerful, virtuous, and prosperous people, I crave your Majesty's permission to offer my humble thanks for the honour conferred upon me by your Majesty's government, by the intimation that my presence in your Imperial metropolis might become beneficial to my brethren of the Hebrew nation in the organisation of schools for the education of their youths; a measure which emanated from your Majesty's watchful and paternal care for the improvement of their situation and the promotion of their happiness. May I be permitted to embrace this favourable moment to express my earnest prayer that your Majesty may deign to give your most humane consideration to the condition of my co-religionists under your Majesty's sway, and that your Majesty may exert that power which God has placed in your august hands, to alleviate, to the utmost extent, which your Majesty's justice and wisdom may think fit, all such laws and edicts as may be proved to press heavily upon the Israelites. I implore your Majesty, therefore, to bend an eye of merciful consideration upon them, and thus, by the revival of their hopes, they may be restored to their proper standing among their fellowmen, and have the opportunity of proving themselves most loyal and faithful subjects, as well as useful and honourable citizens, true to the Eternal God, to whom their prayers daily ascend, that your Majesty's throne may endure to the latest generations, and that your Majesty may long live to secure and to witness the happiness and the prosperity of a great and mighty nation."
The entry in the diary continues:—
"His Imperial Majesty said that I should have the satisfaction of receiving his assurance, as well as that of his Ministers, that they were most desirous for the improvement of their situation in every way possible. His Majesty spoke for about twenty minutes. He said I should go and see them; and referring to the army, that he had put Jews in his guards. I expressed a hope that he would promote them if found as deserving as his other soldiers, to which he assented. I repeatedly said that the Jews were faithful, loyal subjects, industrious and honourable citizens. He said, 'S'ils vous ressemblent' ('If they are like you'). His Majesty heartily shook hands with me as I entered and on my retiring. It is a happiness to me to hear from every person, from the very highest to the lowest classes, that my visit to this country will raise the Jews in the estimation of the people, and that His Majesty's reception of me will be of the utmost importance."
April 10th.—Several persons left their cards, among which we noticed those of Count Orloff, Lieutenant-General Doubett, Chief of the Secret Police, the Chevalier Russi di Castilevala. In the course of the day we went to the office of the Secret Police; they were very civil. We were given to understand that it was customary for visitors to St Petersburg to pay a visit to that office. At two o'clock we called, by appointment, on Count Kisseleff, the Minister in whose charge Jewish affairs are placed. He received Sir Moses most politely, and we were with him more than an hour. Sir Moses went over all the particulars referring to the alleviation of the unfortunate position of the Jews. The Minister (like Count Nesselrode and Count Ouvaroff) said they were great fanatics, and he complained of the Talmud being the cause of their degraded position. Again Sir Moses and myself defended the Talmud, giving the names of Christian divines who have spoken in high praise of that ancient work.
Count Kisseleff wished the Jews to cultivate the land, to establish manufactories, to undertake more laborious work than that to which they had hitherto been accustomed; and, respecting the removal from the frontiers, he said they might go fifty versts on either side. He did not wish to keep them, five or six hundred thousand might leave altogether. Sir Moses might, if he liked, take ten thousand or more to Palestine or elsewhere. He shewed him a Ukase about to be published, which gave them some privileges, but compelled them, within a certain number of years, to adopt some occupation of an active nature, or to be punished as vagrants. He said many Jews had gone to settle in Siberia, but the Governor had taken steps to prevent more of them going there. The Count further said that the Jews were fanatics, praying for the coming of the Messiah and their return to the Holy Land, and that they starved themselves all the week in order to have candles and fish for the Sabbath. Sir Moses having explained to His Excellency the groundlessness of these charges, the Minister then said he should always be pleased to see us, that his doors would be open to Sir Moses every day, and requested he would call again.
April 11th.—At about twelve o'clock an officer came from the Minister of War to inform Sir Moses that the Emperor, having been informed of his wish to assist at the service in the soldier's Synagogue at the barracks, had desired him to escort Sir Moses, and to say that the service was held at seven in the evening, and from eight till twelve in the morning.
At 6.30 we walked through the rain to the barracks, a very long distance from our hotel. The Synagogue was a large room, well fitted up, with the Ark, containing the sacred Scrolls of the Pentateuch, and the pulpit and reading desk. The prayer for the ruling Sovereign and the Royal Family was painted on a tablet affixed to the wall, as in other places of worship among Hebrew communities. The prayers were read by one of the soldiers, who officiated as precentor to a congregation of three hundred of his companions. They all appeared very devout, and joined loudly in the prayers. Sir Moses was so much fatigued that it was with the greatest difficulty and pain that he walked to the Synagogue and back through mud and rain. The barracks were near the English quay, at least two miles distant.
COUNT KISSELEFF IS MORE CONCILIATORY—SIR MOSES SETS OUT FOR WILNA—ARRIVAL AT WILNA—THE JEWS' ANSWERS TO THE CHARGES OF RUSSIAN OFFICIALS.
April 15th.—We went to see Count Kisseleff. His Excellency told Sir Moses that the Emperor had inquired what he thought of the Synagogue. The Count assured him they had determined to adopt a new plan with the Jews, more mild and conciliatory. The Emperor wished them to amalgamate with their fellow subjects, and to cultivate the land. But he would not force them; they would be left to their own free will, and less under the control of the police than they had been, and all who wished to leave the Empire might do so. The Count said he would write to Sir Moses to that effect, and would give him the list of towns to be visited, but the roads, he observed, were dreadfully bad. Sir Moses expressed a strong desire to see Wilna, to which the Minister acceded, giving him introductions to the different places, and writing to the postmasters for horses.
When Sir Moses spoke of religion, Count Kisseleff said he did not care what was between man and his God, but he wished the Jews to become useful citizens, and that they had as many privileges as those in England. He spoke much of their poverty and distress. Sir Moses was pleased to observe that his manner of speaking of the Jews was more friendly. Count Kisseleff said that Jewish artisans and mechanics might come and work at St Petersburg, but that they might not bring their wives and children. He promised to give Sir Moses copies of the Ukase relating to their removal from the villages, and he showed him the Journal des Debats, which stated that Mr Gilbert had put a question to Sir Robert Peel on the subject.
"I am satisfied," Sir Moses records in his diary, "that the Jews will be better off in consequence of our visit to this city. Praise be to God alone!"
April 17th.—We attended service in the soldiers' Synagogue. Two of the superior officers accompanied Sir Moses to the gate of the barracks, and expressed a hope that he was satisfied with the arrangements. The soldiers told us that the coming of Sir Moses had been of the utmost benefit to them, and that their officers treated them much better since his arrival.
April 20th.—We proceeded to Count Ouvaroff, and remained with him one hour. He offered Sir Moses a letter of introduction to the Inspector of Public Instruction at Wilna, and promised to attend to any suggestion that he might send to him after his tour.
We then called and took leave of Count Kisseleff, who assured Sir Moses that his report and suggestions should have his best consideration, that he would put his letter into the hands of the Emperor, and that he would send Sir Moses an answer. He could not have been more friendly. Count Ouvaroff was equally amiable. Orders were sent to all the postmasters along the route to have horses ready for us.
At one o'clock we visited Count Nesselrode, and were equally well received. His Excellency said that he would send Sir Moses a letter of introduction to the Governor of Wilna, and promised to give every consideration to any suggestion he might send him for the improvement of the condition of his co-religionists.
Sir Moses again received the assurances of all the Ministers that their measures for the better education of the Jews was in no way actuated by a desire for their conversion, and that this might be depended upon.
Count Kisseleff told him, in reply to his inquiry, that the Jews did not serve as long in the army as others. He spoke much in favour of the establishment of manufactories, and said that the Government would grant them privileges.
Returning to the hotel Sir Moses, accompanied by Lady Montefiore, went to take leave of Mr and Mrs Bloomfield, from whom they had received the kindest attention and assistance. His Excellency said that if Sir Moses wanted anything at St Petersburg he should recollect he was there, and would always be happy to render his best assistance. He gave him a letter of introduction to the British Consul at Warsaw.
This was a memorable day here. The Emperor inspected the Guards, and gave each soldier one and a half silver roubles. The Isaac Square was thronged with holiday folks, enjoying the national sports. Count Kisseleff told Sir Moses that four hundred recruits had just arrived from a place near Wilna without a single man having fallen sick or deserted. The Emperor had seen them, was pleased with them, and gave them money.
Sir Moses spoke with several of the Jews who had served from ten to fifteen years. They said that after twenty years they were free, if they served in the Guards; but if they were attendants, or served in the hospitals, or as mechanics, then their service was extended to twenty-five years. As far as Sir Moses could judge, they did not appear to be discontented with their situation, and observed their religion. They were together in barracks, with their wives and children.
Among the visitors who called during the day was Sheikh Mouhhammad Ayyad Ettantawy, Professor of the Arabic Language and Literature in the Asiatic Institution (who had been my Arabic master during my stay at Cairo). The Sheikh expressed great admiration for the character of Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore, and their noble exertions to ameliorate the condition of their brethren; and he composed two poems in commemoration of their visit to St Petersburg, which he himself copied in the Arabic language in their diaries. He had been sent to St Petersburg at the instance of Count Medem, the Russian Consul General in Alexandria. Owing to his great learning the Mooslim professor had already received two decorations—the Orders of St Anne and of St Stanislas—from the Emperor Nicholas, and had become a great favourite with all the students who attended his lectures.
The Hebrew soldiers brought the books from the charitable institutions and schools which they had established among themselves.
Various authors and poets sent their literary compositions in honour to Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore's arrival, hospitals, schools, and institutions of all kinds sent their representatives to enlist their sympathies for a good cause, and the latter endeavoured, as much as possible, to satisfy all deserving applicants.
The number of visitors from the nobility, since Sir Moses had been received by the Emperor, greatly increased; but there was no time for him to return their visits or accept their invitations, as he was anxious to proceed without further delay to visit the places pointed out to him by the Government. A great many Israelites from different parts of the empire came and gave us their blessings; nearly all were soldiers. One of them had two distinguished orders for his bravery in Poland; he had been in the army eighteen years.
Count Nesselrode sent a letter of introduction to the Governor of Warsaw, and Count Kisseleff one to the Postmaster of Wilcomir, that we might find no difficulty in proceeding from that place to Wilna. All arrangements for our departure being now completed, Sir Moses gave the order to start.
For the first two days of our journey the weather was beautiful and the roads excellent, as smooth as a bowling green; but just before entering Ostroff we encountered terribly rough weather and desperately bad roads, full of ruts and holes. We were ferried over several rivers before reaching Roubelove, where we resolved on remaining for the night.
Regiza, Friday, April 24th.—"We find," as the entry in the diary says, "the post stations get worse as we proceed, both in respect to cleanliness and comfort. Last night there was no bread, no beer, wine, or spirits, and very bad water, and beds out of the question. We have slept on sofas since we left St Petersburg, with the greater part of our clothes on, being covered with our cloaks. It is indeed roughing it. We have travelled 418-1/4 posts. This is the first town from St Petersburg inhabited by Israelites, and poor indeed they appear. My dear Judith has a very bad cough, but bears the fatigue and deprivation of all comfort most admirably; she is cheerful and content. We noticed the land ready to be cultivated, and observed many ploughs at work, but with only one horse to each. We continue to pass through large forests of firs, birch, &c.; the ground being very sandy and marshy, very poor for cultivation."
The Sabbath enabled us to enjoy the repose we so much required.
Sunday, April 26th.—We proceeded to Dueneberg, thence to Wilcomir, where, on our arrival, a deputation from Wilna came to bid us welcome.
April 29th.—We continued our journey to Wilna. This town may be described as the most important centre of Hebrew literature in Russia, and numbers among its inhabitants very many distinguished Hebrew authors and poets. The works written by them on all subjects connected with the elucidation of the Sacred Scriptures may be counted by hundreds. They also excel in works of industry of every description, and are the principal artisans in the place. In their commercial transactions they show great ability, and are often, for their sound judgment, consulted by their non-Israelite neighbours on subjects which require special consideration.
The Jewish settlement in Wilna dates from long before 1326. According to a statement given in the Otsherki Wilenskoi Gubernii (Wilna, 1852), they had at that time (in the year 1326) already in their community a special Chamber of Commerce, which they could only have established there after a long residence in the country.
Cardinal Commendoni, the Nuncio of the Pope at the Court of King Sigismund-Auguste in the year 1561, though he reproached the Poles for having granted too many privileges to the infidels, nevertheless expressed himself favourably when speaking of the Jews in Lithuania, of which Wilna is the capital.
The following is the substance of his remarks on the subject, as given in the book entitled "Rosprawa O Zydach, Czackiego," p. 93:—There are still a great many Jews in these provinces, including Lithuania, who are not, as in many other places, regarded with disrespect; they do not maintain themselves miserably by base profits; they are landed proprietors, are engaged in commerce, and even devote themselves to the study of literature, and more especially to medicine and astrology. They hold almost everywhere the commission of levying the customs duties; they are classed among the most honest people; they wear no outward mark to distinguish them from Christians, and are permitted to carry a sword and walk about with their arms; in a word, they enjoy the same privileges as other citizens.
The Jews of Wilna determined to give a most hearty welcome to Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore.
The Spiritual Head of the community, all the members of his Ecclesiastical Court, the representatives of all the educational, industrial and charitable institutions, and all the officers connected with them, came to meet Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore at a place called Krisanke (Krigeanki), seventeen versts from Wilna. A deputation from among them proceeded five versts further. On meeting us they presented Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore with a poem written in the purest Biblical Hebrew, which was gratefully acknowledged by Sir Moses. They then left in great haste to apprise their colleagues of our approach.
On our arrival at Krisanke we found all the members of the Committee of Welcome drawn up in a line. As the carriage stopped, the Spiritual Head of the community, accompanied by the representatives of the various institutions, approached Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore, and delivered an address to them, which Sir Moses answered in his own name and that of Lady Montefiore. They were then requested to alight and enter a room, most tastefully decorated for the occasion, and where an excellent breakfast awaited them.
We left Krisanke and directed our course towards Wilna. For the whole distance of seventeen versts the fields to the right and left of the road were crowded by people, who shouted in Hebrew, "Blessed be those who come in the name of the Lord;" and when, on approaching the carriage of Sir Moses, they beheld the Hebrew word "Jerusalem" on the banner attached to the supporters of his coat of arms, joy filled their hearts, and they showered innumerable blessings on the heads of its occupants.
We arrived safely at the house of Mr Isaac A. L. Setil, which had been specially prepared for our reception, and there met three gentlemen of the Hebrew community waiting to receive Sir Moses' orders.
A comfortable night's rest made both Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore soon forget the discomforts which they had to endure on the road from St Petersburg.
I now give Sir Moses' own words, as entered in the diary.
"Wilna, April 30th.—I took my letter of introduction to the Governor, and he received me instantly. Dr Loewe accompanied me. The Governor was extremely polite, and spoke much of the Jews. He attributed their present unhappy state to great poverty, but could not suggest any other remedy than colonisation; the want of capital will render this measure very slow. He did not think the Jews could be removed from the villages till the autumn, when some arrangement would be adopted for their employment. The Jews might have land near to Christians, and he thought it desirable that they should be more together. I am of opinion that the Jewish population has increased more rapidly than the others, and consequently their means of obtaining a livelihood by barter is more difficult. We were introduced to the Governor's wife, a very handsome and agreeable lady, and extremely well informed. She expressed the kindest sentiments towards the Jews. I called with Monsieur Ouvaroff's letter on His Excellency Monsieur E. Gruber, Councillor of State. He was much in favour of the Jews. At five I received those persons who formed the deputation and came twenty versts to see me. Dr Loewe addressed them in German, related all that had passed at St Petersburg, and read them the papers I had received. They will write me their observations."
The reader will probably remember the charges which the Ministers brought against the Jews; also the special reports referring to the unsuccessful endeavours to raise their status, with which the Russian Government provided Sir Moses, to enable him to ascertain the exact state of the Hebrew communities. It was therefore necessary, however painful it must have been to him, to make fully known to the deputation all the wrong-doings of which they stood accused before the Government, and to afford them the opportunity of clearing their character.
I addressed them in the name of Sir Moses, saying that "this fatiguing journey over land and sea had been exclusively undertaken by him for their sakes. The guiding hand of the Eternal God, which always accompanied him on his travels, had not forsaken him on the present occasion, and made him arrive at an opportune time at St Petersburg, when His Majesty the Emperor had just returned from a journey to Moscow. He was fortunate enough to be received by His Imperial Majesty in a private audience, where His Majesty deigned to receive him most kindly, and afterwards sent him to his three Imperial Ministers, Count Nesselrode, Minister of State; Count Ouvaroff, Minister of Public Instruction; and Count Kisseleff, Minister of the Crown Lands, to receive from them their reports. His Majesty had promised Sir Moses that he would treat the Jews paternally, and with forbearance. But to Sir Moses' great sorrow, he had also heard complaints against them. He therefore entreated the deputation to give him all the information they could on all the subjects to which he had drawn their attention."
Having listened, with tears in their eyes, to the accusations brought against them, the deputation promised to provide him, with a statement in which all the questions brought to his notice would be treated seriatim, and containing many historically interesting notices on the civil condition of the Russian Jews, also many letters from Jewish families that had, at that time, been expelled from villages and taverns.
"The Civil Governor of the town," Sir Moses enters in his diary, "sent the chief officer of police to say he should be happy to accompany me at any time I might fix, to the several public institutions. We cannot move a step without being surrounded by hundreds of people, all giving us their blessing."
Wilna, May 1st.—Sir Moses went to the Civil Governor, and was with him an hour. The Governor repeated all that the other Ministers had said, and told him that the Jews were not obliged to leave the villages, but only to discontinue selling brandy. This, at least, was something gained.
During our absence, Monsieur E. Gruber left his card. The Military Governor paid us a visit, and invited Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore to a ball on Sunday, the 17th inst. Sir Moses, not expecting to be present at a ball in Wilna, had left his uniform at Wilcomir, and intended for this reason to decline accepting the invitation; but the Governor at once observed that a special messenger would bring his uniform from Wilcomir in due time, and hoped to see him at the ball. Many members of the aristocracy called, among whom was Count Wittgenstein.
THE JEWISH SCHOOLS AT WILNA—WILCOMIR—DEPLORABLE CONDITION OF THE HEBREW COMMUNITY IN THAT TOWN—KOWNO—WARSAW.
On the following morning, Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore offered up prayers amidst thousands of their brethren, and many visitors, who "from curiosity," as they said, "came to see the English philanthropist." The rest of the day was devoted to the reception of the members of the community, their wives and children, so as to have the opportunity of becoming acquainted with their manners and mode of conversation.
It being customary in that place to send wine and sweetmeats of every description to a person of distinction on the first Sabbath of his arrival, many hundreds of bottles of the best wine, with cakes and sweetmeats from the most skilful confectioners, were sent to us, and these were several times handed round by Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore themselves. The amiability with which they received every new comer induced the visitors to speak without restraint on all subjects.
In the evening a scribe of great ability was summoned before Sir Moses, to prepare a scroll of parchment, upon which the latter was desirous to commence writing the first line of the Pentateuch for Synagogual purposes. The scribe soon made his appearance, and Sir Moses, in the presence of the Chief Rabbi and the principal lecturer of the community, performed the task assigned to him.
Wilna, May 3rd.—Sir Moses paid a visit to the Governor, where he met most of the nobility of the place, and representatives of various communities, who came to pay their respects on the occasion of the birthday of the Czarewitch. Among those present we also noticed the Ecclesiastical Chief of the Hebrew community.
On our return from the Governor, we proceeded to inspect the various colleges and schools, where we examined the pupils, and conversed with the teachers and directors regarding the subjects to which Sir Moses' attention had been called at St Petersburg. From each of these establishments full accounts were given to us, of which Sir Moses made the best use in his report to the Czar.
In the evening, by special invitation from the Governor, Sir Moses visited the theatre, and subsequently, he, Lady Montefiore, and myself attended the ball at His Excellency's. We were received by all present with every possible attention and courtesy, and the appearance of Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore made a most favourable impression.
On our return from the entertainment we found some beautiful embroidery, poems, drawings, &c., sent to Lady Montefiore by the pupils of some of the girls' schools of the place. We had had an opportunity, in the morning, of inspecting the schools. In some of them the pupils acquitted themselves satisfactorily in the French, Russian, German, and Hebrew languages; their handwriting was beautiful, and in arithmetic they were far advanced.
Monday, May 4th.—We went to-day to see the printing office of the Brothers Rom, Rundsinsky, Koenigsberg, and Torkin. Sir Moses was accompanied by His Excellency the Civil Governor Terebzow. They presented us with a number of valuable works, each of which was adorned with a poem written by the gifted poet A. B. Lebensohn. We then proceeded to the Jewish Hospital, the Infant School, under the patronage of the wife of the Military Governor, the Orphan Asylum of Mr Chiya Danzig, and many schools and colleges, everywhere exhorting the pupils to study the Russian language and literature, and everywhere leaving charitable gifts. Sir Moses took every means to make himself thoroughly acquainted with all the matters on which he had been asked to report to the Emperor, and invited ten of the most prominent men of the community to attend morning and evening prayers at his hotel, and afterwards to report and discuss matters generally.
May 5th.—With a view of showing his respect for the Chief Rabbi and the representatives of the community, and, at the same time, of forming an idea of the domestic arrangements for the comfort of their families, Sir Moses devoted many hours to calling on those persons. He had the satisfaction of seeing among them many well-educated wives, sons, and daughters; their dwellings were scrupulously clean, the furniture plain, but suitable for the purpose, and the appearance of the family healthy. Some of them were very good looking.
The number of letters from Jews and Christians hourly increased; whole nights were often devoted to reading them, and making extracts from those which required special and immediate attention.
May 6th.—We were indoors all this day, engaged from morning till evening in conversation with numerous persons on the subject of our journey.
His Excellency, Monsieur Gruber, came just when the room was filled with visitors, including the Chief Rabbi, the principal lecturer of the Synagogue, and many of the leading members of the community. Taking advantage of the opportunity, these gentlemen spoke of the state of the Jews in Russia, and stated to him that the Government would not permit them to have land, nor would they employ them as labourers; adding that they could bring to His Excellency, within a few minutes, if he desired it, five thousand men, women, and children who would be ready to do any work, however laborious, merely for a piece of bread a day. They had frequently petitioned the Government, they said, for liberty to take land, but had never received the required permission.
The conversation was carried on with great spirit. Subsequently a large deputation was introduced, who requested Sir Moses to remain till after Sabbath. The Burgomaster of Wilna being present, joined in the request, and Sir Moses at last consented, especially as the deputation observed that they could not sooner get their papers ready for him.
Friday, May 8th.—The representatives of the Hebrew congregation of this town, together with those of other Hebrew congregations from some of the principal towns in Russia, under the presidency of the Chief Rabbi, held a meeting for the purpose of examining the papers which had been prepared for presentation to Sir Moses, in reply to the charges brought against them at St Petersburg. It was arranged to request Sir Moses to appoint the following day, in the evening, after the termination of the Sabbath, for their reception, and to invite the writer of these lines to address the congregation on the following morning in the principal Synagogue of the town, so as to afford to thousands of their brethren and visitors the opportunity of becoming acquainted with any suggestion which it might be deemed desirable to communicate to them relative to the Mission of Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore.
With this view a deputation waited on Sir Moses, and he agreed to receive them at the appointed time. The same deputation also brought me the invitation to deliver an address in their Synagogue, which I willingly accepted.
Saturday, May 9th.—Divine service was held in the apartments of Sir Moses early in the morning. In the afternoon, at about two o'clock, he and Lady Montefiore proceeded to the Synagogue, where I delivered the address in the presence of a very large assembly of members of various communities and visitors. In the evening all the representatives of Wilna, and those of the principal towns in Russia, together with the gentlemen who wrote the reports in the Hebrew, French, and Russian languages, and others of high standing in the community, headed by their Ecclesiastical Chief, presented the papers which Sir Moses was so anxiously expecting.
It is often a grave and exciting moment for those present in a court of justice, when the accused, however humble his station in life may be, pleads his cause and vindicates his innocence against a vigorous prosecutor; graver, however, and considerably more exciting was the scene which I now witnessed, when not merely a private individual, but the representatives of three millions of loyal subjects of the Emperor of Russia, pleaded their cause and vindicated their innocence against the most serious charges brought against them and their religious tenets by the Ministers of the Empire. I repeatedly noticed tears rolling down the cheeks of the venerable elders of the community. Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore themselves could hardly suppress their emotion.
Every word contained in the written statements had been translated by me into English, and the whole was read aloud to the assembly. Sir Moses addressed questions to the representatives of the various communities, and elicited numerous replies; but the more voluminous ones had to be taken away with us, to be read next day by Sir Moses on the road.
Thus many hours of the night passed; it was two o'clock in the morning when the conference terminated. Refreshments were handed round. Sir Moses drank to "better times, and to the health and prosperity of his brethren in Russia." The Chief Rabbi, the representatives of the community, and all present shed tears at the contemplation of our departure.
Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore left many souvenirs to those who had so kindly attended them during their stay in Wilna, and sent hundreds of bottles of the best wine, and many kinds of meat, and cakes of every description to the hospitals. All the charitable institutions and all deserving cases were remembered by most generous gifts, and nothing more was left for him to do.
The favourable impression which the people of Wilna made on Sir Moses prompted him to say to those present, as he stepped into his carriage: "I leave you, but my heart will ever remain with you. When my brethren suffer, I feel it painfully; when they have reason to weep, my eyes shed tears."
At four o'clock in the morning, when no one in the town expected our departure, we left Wilna for Wilcomir. The recent rains had made the roads very bad; heavy sand and numerous ruts prevented our proceeding at the average rate of travelling. In one spot our conveyance stuck fast in a deep hole, and we were detained for fully half-an-hour. This unpleasant circumstance was much aggravated by the hundreds of poor Russian men, women, and children following the carriage for miles on the road. The more they had given to them, the more they appeared to want.
After a ride of seventy-six and a half versts we reached Wilcomir, where a deputation from the Hebrew community brought us wine and cake. The account which they gave of their brethren was but sorrowful. Of five hundred families, they said, one-fourth died last year from destitution.
We visited the school and charitable institutions, and next day continued our journey to Kowno.
Hundreds of persons, with lighted candles in their hands, greeted us on our arrival at Kowno. We found an elegant house prepared for us, all the rooms and passages brilliantly lighted with wax candles. The host and hostess, Mr and Mrs Kadisohn, attended on Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore themselves. "We have not had," Lady Montefiore said, "such beds or accommodation since leaving England."
Sir Moses had an important interview with the Governor of the town respecting the employment of Jews to repair the high roads, they being willing to work for twenty kopeks a day, while labourers of other denominations receive thirty. We here received information regarding the Jews, in general, living in that district; and the representatives of the community, headed by their Chief Rabbi, supplemented this by numerous statements made to Sir Moses in writing.
May 12th.—We left Kowno early in the morning, were ferried over the river, and detained two hours on the frontier of the former kingdom of Poland. Proceeded through Calvarie, Souvalky, Stavesey. In each of these places we had interviews with the authorities, and elders of the Hebrew community, and visited their schools and charitable institutions.
May 13th.—Our arrival at Warsaw was announced to thousands of the Hebrew community who were anxious to see Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore.
Mr Blumberg, one of the leading merchants, came to request Sir Moses' acceptance of his house during our stay at Warsaw; but Sir Moses, while thanking him for his hospitality, thought it desirable to live at an hotel, in preference to a private house.
The first visit paid by Sir Moses was to Colonel du Plat, the British Consul for Poland; he was absent from home, but sent in the course of the day, a message to Sir Moses that he would be pleased to see him on the following day.
The Chief Rabbi and the representatives of the Hebrew community came to congratulate us on our safe arrival. They said it had been their wish to have made a more public display of their gratitude to Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore, but they were prevented from doing so. They had asked the Governor if they might go out of the city to meet us, and received the reply that he could say neither "Yes" nor "No." The accounts which Sir Moses continued to receive from the Jews, of their position in this country, were most distressing.
Warsaw, May 17th.—"This morning," Sir Moses writes in his diary, "I called on Colonel du Plat with Dr Loewe. He proposed to accompany me immediately to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of the Interior, and the Military Governor of the city. We accordingly visited each of them, and I was received with much politeness. The two former Ministers conversed with me for a considerable time about the condition of the Jews. The Minister of Foreign Affairs is to ask His Highness the Viceroy for an audience for me. I have heard repeated the same complaints, that the Jews will not cultivate the land, and from the Jews themselves that they cannot get permission to purchase land. This afternoon I received a letter from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, that His Highness will be happy to see me to-morrow at twelve. I received a deputation, consisting of the principal Jews of this city, headed by the Chief Rabbi. They give a deplorable account of the present position of the Jews in this kingdom.
"May 15th.—Colonel du Plat came and accompanied me and Dr Loewe to the Palace. We were received by Prince Paskiewitch (who is the Viceroy of the kingdom) with much politeness. I was in full uniform. We were one hour and a half in conversation respecting the Jews. He expressed the same sentiments as those we heard in St Petersburg; also said that the Jews would not cultivate the land, though the law allowed them to purchase it. I said that hundreds of Jews had expressed to me their ardent desire to obtain land, and that I feared there existed some difficulty in the requisite formalities. The Prince does not wish for further education, and is by no means disposed to give any privilege to them. His Highness invited me and the Consul to dine with him at six. It was a very pleasant and chatty party. I sat on the right of the Prince, but took nothing except asparagus, salad, ices, and dessert. The Princess was most agreeable, and conversed freely with me; indeed, all were most friendly.
"The Countess Rzewuska, nee Princess Lubomirska; M. de Hilferilling, Conseiller d'Etat-actuel, Head of the Chancellerie Diplomatique of the Prince; the Minister of the Interior, General L. Se ater Storozenko; the Postmaster-General, Prince Galitzin; the Head of the Police, General Abramowicz; and the Governor-General of Warsaw, General Okouneff, were also present on that occasion.
"Warsaw, May 16th.—A deputation, consisting of at least twenty gentlemen from all the charitable institutions belonging to the Jews, presented my dear wife and myself with a beautiful address and a very elegant silver cup, as a mark of their gratitude for our exertions on their behalf. The house has been surrounded from morning till night by hundreds of our co-religionists, anxious to get a glimpse of us. Two gendarmes and a police officer have had great difficulty in keeping the people out of the house. We had the honour of a long visit to-day from the Military Governor."
DEPUTATION FROM KRAKAU—THE POLISH JEWS AND THEIR GARB—SIR MOSES LEAVES WARSAW—POSEN, BERLIN, AND FRANKFORT—HOME.
"Sunday, May 17th.—My dear wife, Dr Loewe, and myself paid a visit to the Princess Paskiewitch, the wife of the Viceroy. She was very kind in her manner, and spoke for a considerable time with us. We afterwards accompanied Mr Epstein to the Jewish Hospital, where we found the directors and most of the governors and their ladies waiting to receive us."
In order to show how desirous the Jews here are, under the most unfavourable circumstances, to promote the welfare of their poorer brethren, Sir Moses gives a long description of the hospital, containing 355 beds, baths, kitchens, a dispensary, laundry, and Synagogue; and of Mr Matthias Rosen's Aged Needy Asylum, and speaks in terms of the highest praise of all the arrangements. He also alludes to the important fact that the poor children are taught and apprenticed to various trades.
After inspecting the whole establishment, we were conducted to the Committee room. Sir Moses was here presented with a beautiful little statue of Moses, a copy in bronze of the statue by Michael Angelo, the President delivering a most suitable address. It is now in the Lecture Hall of Judith, Lady Montefiore's Theological College in Ramsgate, and is an object of great interest to visitors.
They were there met by the governor and directors, with their ladies. The way was covered with green baize, and about a dozen children walked before them strewing flowers.
"On our return home," Sir Moses continues in his diary, "I found Colonel du Plat waiting to accompany me to Monsieur Hilferilling, Head of the Chancellerie Diplomatique of the Prince. I thanked him for the paper he sent me yesterday, and also for the Ukase published last evening, allowing the Jews to retain their present costume for three months, till after the 1st of July. This will be a great relief to the poor, though I am happy to find that there will be no difficulty made by the Jews in complying with the wishes of the Government."
The dress worn by the Jews in Poland is that which was formerly worn in that country by Christians as well as by Jews. In the course of time the Jews became so used to it that the change for the European dress appeared to them almost a transgression of some religious injunction.
The appearance of Sir Moses, dressed in European costume, while rigidly observing the injunctions of his religion, contributed greatly to their conviction that a change of dress need not involve any serious consequences.
Turning again to the entry of the diary, Sir Moses says: "I then informed His Excellency that I should be very happy if it were possible to have an audience of the Emperor, as His Majesty is every moment expected to arrive; that I did not ask for it, but I should be glad if it could be made known to His Majesty that I was in the city. His Excellency said he would speak with Count Orloff to-morrow morning."
May 18th.—This morning Sir Moses received a note from Colonel du Plat, stating that His Majesty was going to the Greek Cathedral, and recommending him to put on his uniform, and to be there, as it would most likely obtain for him an earlier intimation of His Majesty's wishes; but Sir Moses thought it advisable not to avail himself of the opportunity in a place of public worship.
The stream of visitors continued all day long, some even remaining in the house as a "guard of honour." Our rooms were comfortable, and the attentions of our friends unceasing, and yet there was a great drawback, inasmuch as we could not even converse with friends without the subject being immediately made known to others.
I remember an instance of this. On one occasion Sir Moses received a letter in the evening relative to an appointment with a gentleman at six o'clock the next morning. I entered his room to confer with him on the subject, and before the appointed hour, a letter arrived from that gentleman, repeating almost word for word what Sir Moses had said to me, concerning him and the appointment. We could not explain to ourselves how it was possible for him thus to have received information of what we thought no one had heard. But on looking round in the room, we noticed, not far from the sofa, a large portrait, the eyes of which had round holes instead of pupils. We at once went into the corridor, and, to our great surprise, we found we could hear every word spoken within by Lady Montefiore and others.
May 19th.—Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore received a deputation from Praga, who presented them with a very small, beautifully written scroll of the Pentateuch, with a costly silver crown thereon, ornamented with precious stones; also with a silver pointer for the use of the reader, all being deposited in a beautiful little Ark.
The deputation invited them to visit their elementary schools and Rabbinical colleges.
At the appointed hour Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore proceeded to the house of Mr Blumberg, where they met a very considerable number of students.
In compliance with a request from the college and school committees, and from Sir Moses, I examined the Rabbinical students for nearly three hours. The result being most satisfactory, Sir Moses consented to become the patron of the college.
On our return from Praga, a deputation from the Hebrew congregation of Krakau was introduced. They had important communications to make, relating to questions in connection with the state of education among Jews in Poland; and several hours passed in conversation with them.
May 20th.—Sir Moses being apprehensive that his continued stay in this city might not be agreeable to the Government, as there were always hundreds of people near his hotel, and many more following him about in the streets, he called on the British Consul, Colonel du Plat, and informed him of his feelings on the subject; adding that he thought he had better leave on the morrow. The Consul said he would first see the Minister, and acquaint him with Sir Moses' sentiments, and he would let him know the Minister's reply.
The United Committee of the Elementary Schools and the New Synagogue presented to Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore a beautifully written scroll of the Pentateuch, somewhat larger than that they had previously received, with a silver crown, accompanied by an Ark for its reception. Like other souvenirs, it is now preserved in the Lecture Hall of the College in Ramsgate.
Colonel du Plat paid us a long visit, and discussed the object of Sir Moses' Mission to Russia, and subsequently we went to the garden of the "Little Palace," in which the Emperor resided. We saw His Majesty there, in an open carriage, and met the Viceroy, all the Cabinet Ministers, their ladies, and the elite of the city.
The Princess Paskiewitch and the Ministers spoke to Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore, and appeared most friendly in their conversation.
May 22nd.—"I received to-day," the entry in the diary records, "two or three deputations from congregations, distant from thirty to three hundred miles, with addresses, and called at one o'clock on Colonel du Plat. He had just returned from a review, where Count Orloff told him 'he had received my card; that he was much pleased with the whole of my conduct; it had given general satisfaction; that I was a man comme il faut, and that my visit would be very useful.'
"Dr Loewe and I rode to the Prince Marshal to take leave, unless His Highness had any commands for me. Dr Loewe got out of the carriage to enquire if he was at home, and, at the instant, His Highness was leaving the house to attend the Council. He regretted he could not stop to speak with me, but requested I would come to him to-morrow at six. As I could not walk as far as the Palace (the sanctity of the Sabbath not permitting me to ride in a carriage), I requested Dr Loewe to call on the Minister of Diplomacy, and to beg of him to arrange with the Prince for paying my respects on Sunday instead of to-morrow, which he promised to do, and to acquaint me with the result."
The same day a deputation of that pre-eminently conservative class of the Hebrew community, known by the appellation of "Khasseedim," paid us a visit. They wore hats, according to European fashion, instead of the Polish "czapka," or the "mycka," which is similar to that of the Circassian's. They were headed by Mr Posener, a gentleman who had done much for the promotion of industry in Poland, and his son; and he informed Sir Moses that he would, though an old man, comply with the desire of the Government, and change the Polish for the German costume. Being a man held in high esteem by the Jews, and well spoken of by the Prince, his example would have a most favourable effect upon others.
Warsaw, Saturday Evening, May 23rd.—Divine service was held in our apartments in the morning, afternoon, and evening. We had intended going to the New Synagogue, but were deterred from doing so by the great difficulties which we had encountered last evening in going to and returning from the Great Synagogue. Thousands of persons had followed us nearly the whole way, and the gallery of the Synagogue was so dreadfully crowded with ladies, that serious apprehensions were entertained lest it might fall, when hundreds must have been killed. A strong body of police had secured our retreat.
At least five hundred ladies, the wives and daughters of our co-religionists, called on Lady Montefiore.
A girl twelve years old sang several Hebrew melodies; she had a fine voice. In the evening we had with us, for the second time, a little boy, eight years old, who played exquisitely on the violin. He also recited the portion of the Pentateuch selected for the Sabbath reading in the Synagogue, with several of the commentaries on the same, by heart; a very handsome child. By his extraordinary talent he supports his parents and family—in all ten persons. Sir Moses made him a present of a sum of money to enable him to pay for a master.
We again noticed that the walls of our room were admirably arranged, so that every word we speak could be distinctly overheard outside in a dark passage.
Warsaw, Sunday, May 24th.—Colonel du Plat called, having been requested by Sir Moses to accompany him to the Palace. Going there, we met the Prince as he was descending from his carriage; he was most polite, and begged us to come into the Palace. He was very sorry he could not see Sir Moses on Friday. Sir Moses told His Highness that he had come to take leave of him, and to inquire if he had any commands for him. The Prince said he was very sorry that he had been prevented from showing him more attention, but since the arrival of the Emperor his presence was required every quarter of an hour. Sir Moses spoke of the great desire of the Jews to be allowed to purchase land, and to cultivate it themselves; he also told the Prince that Mr Posener had promised to change his dress, which pleased him greatly, and his example would, he said, have great effect, and he had no doubt that Sir Moses' visit would produce much good.
They then had some conversation respecting the repeal of the Corn Laws in England, the Bill having passed by a majority of ninety-three. They also spoke of the death of an English Admiral, and our victories in India. Their parting was most friendly.
Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore then left cards on the Princess, all the Ministers, the Spiritual Head of the Hebrew community, and the representatives of the several institutions they had visited; and orders were given for their departure at three o'clock in the morning.
In the course of the day, Colonel du Plat called to bid us farewell. A great number of persons came in the evening for a similar purpose, and remained till one o'clock in the morning. Sir Moses then entrusted some of the gentlemen with his generous donations for the poor of all denominations, also for schools, hospitals, and charitable institutions; and, with the most favourable impressions of the good intentions of his brethren in Poland, we left Warsaw at the appointed hour.
On the same day, May 25th, we arrived at Posen. Wherever we had stopped on the road, even at the post-houses, where we could only remain for a few minutes to change horses, deputations with addresses awaited our arrival.
Early in the morning of Tuesday, a deputation from the Old Synagogue came to conduct Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore to divine service. The venerable edifice, which is very ancient, large, and of handsome proportions, was lighted up, and the paths leading to the seats strewn with flowers.
At eleven o'clock the Rev. S. Eger, Chief Rabbi of the community; the Rev. S. Plessner, Chief Lecturer; the officers, of the Synagogue, and the representatives of all the Hebrew charities, in all about sixty gentlemen, waited upon them with an address.
The streets were crowded, and on reaching the Synagogue, all the passages were filled with ladies and gentlemen, with lighted wax candles in their hands, a number of young and beautiful girls strewing roses and other fragrant flowers before us.
The Synagogue was one blaze of light, from hundreds of wax candles, ornamented with flowers. Sir Moses was placed in the body of the Synagogue, and Lady Montefiore in the ladies' gallery, under beautiful canopies with rich drapery and flowers.
The Rev. S. Plessner presented a beautiful poem, in which he expressed a hearty welcome and the deep gratitude of his community; others, equally zealous in conveying their appreciation of Sir Moses' and Lady Montefiore's services, presented addresses in German or French; and we found it necessary to have special cases made to contain them.
We left Posen in the evening, travelled the whole night, and reached Berlin next day at ten o'clock in the evening, taking up our quarters at the Hotel de St Petersbourg.
Berlin, Friday, May 29th.—Called at the British Embassy, but learned that Lord and Lady Westmoreland were in England. Sir Moses saw Sir George B. Hamilton (who was acting for him), and expressed his desire to be presented to His Majesty, the King of Prussia; but His Majesty, Sir George said, was at Torgau, and would not return before the 6th of June. Sir Moses then left his card on Monsieur Fonton, at the Russian Embassy.
Mr Bleichroder, father of the present Consul General for England, called, also the Chief Rabbi, and three gentlemen from Krakau, to present an address to Sir Moses, requesting him to speak to the King of Prussia in favour of the Jews of that place.
The following three days, being the Sabbath and Pentecost festival, most of the time was taken up by attending divine service and receiving visitors.
June 2nd.—We went to take leave of Sir George Hamilton. Sir Moses expressed regret at not being able to have the honour of being presented to His Majesty, as he had hoped to have the opportunity of praying for his gracious efforts to cause the Jews of Cracow to be placed in the same position as their brethren in His Majesty's other dominions. Sir George said that if Sir Moses wrote him a letter to that effect, he would place it in the King's hands.
In the course of conversation, Sir George told Sir Moses that he had received an express from Lord Aberdeen, desiring him to repair to Florence, as things were in so uncertain a state in London (alluding to the Corn Bill); he could not tell how soon a change might take place; but Lord Brougham and Lady Westmoreland, he said, had written, that they thought Sir Robert Peel would weather the storm.
Berlin, June 3rd.—Soon after six, an elegant carriage sent by the deputies of the Hebrew community of the city, stopped at our door to convey Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore to the railway station. There were also thirty other carriages with a deputation, and the ladies of their families, to accompany us; but as Sir Moses had not yet received the memorial from the Cracow deputation, which Sir George Hamilton so kindly promised to put into His Majesty's hands for him, we could not leave until half-past twelve. At eleven o'clock, when the memorial was brought, we at once proceeded to Sir George, and gave it to him. Sir Moses stated all the particulars of the degraded and oppressed state of the Jews, and Sir George repeated the promise he had made, adding that he should be most happy to render every service in his power for their relief; and he would call upon Sir Moses at Park Lane when in London. On our arrival at the station, we found all the principal Jewish families waiting to bid us farewell.
June 8th.—At Frankfort-on-the-Main a brilliant reception awaited them. The Rothschild family and all the principal Jewish inhabitants of the city, together with the Spiritual Heads of the community, vied with each other in evincing their appreciation of the noble work that Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore had done in the cause of humanity. Between eleven and twelve o'clock in the night they were serenaded by a band of Jewish musicians (permission having been previously obtained from the Governor). The streets were crowded, and numbers of coloured lamps gave animation to the scene. When Sir Moses appeared on the balcony, bowing his warm acknowledgments, hearty cheers re-echoed from all sides.
Among the numerous persons who called was Professor Oppenheim, of whose works of art there are three fine specimens in Lady Montefiore's Theological College.
June 16th.—They left Calais and arrived safely at Dover, on their way to Ramsgate; but on hearing a report that an epidemic of scarlet fever had broken out near East Cliff, they altered their route and proceeded direct to London.
SIR MOSES RECEIVES THE CONGRATULATIONS OF HIS ENGLISH CO-RELIGIONISTS—HIS EXHAUSTIVE REPORT TO COUNT KISSELEFF—EXAMINATION OF THE CHARGES AGAINST THE JEWS—THEIR ALLEGED DISINCLINATION TO ENGAGE IN AGRICULTURE.
In London, as at Dover, numerous friends were waiting to welcome them, but Sir Moses did not remain long in their company; he deemed it his duty, before entering his house at Park Lane, to call on Sir Robert Peel, Lord Aberdeen, and Baron Brunnow, and leave his cards.
The next day he called again on the latter, and remained with him for an hour; also on Sir Robert Peel, and on Lord Aberdeen at the Foreign Office. His Lordship said he should be most happy at all times to do what he could. Sir Moses also called on Sir Roderick Murchison, and left his card, with the letter from Colonel de Helmerson of St Petersburg; thence he went to the Palace, to enter his name in Prince Albert's visitors' book, and also called on Lord Bloomfield.
Saturday, June 20th.—Prayers and thanksgivings were offered up in all the Synagogues for the safe return of Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore from Russia; and, during the week following, numerous addresses from all the Hebrew congregations in England, as well as from those in other parts of the world, were presented. All these are now preserved in the Lecture Hall of the College at Ramsgate.
Notwithstanding his natural desire for rest, after the labours of his recent missions, Sir Moses felt that the greatest and most important part of his work yet remained to be done. He had to make a report to the Emperor of Russia. He had to show His Majesty the groundlessness of the accusations brought against his brethren, and to place before the Emperor their humble petition for the removal of all those causes which prevented them from attaining that degree of prosperity which His Majesty so graciously desired that they, in common with his other faithful subjects, should enjoy.
He also had to report on the state of their education, with a view to removing from the minds of His Majesty's Ministers the unfavourable impressions which incorrect representations had made on them.
Sir Moses having made the subject in question his principal study, was enabled, after mature consideration, to draw up and forward to the Ministers, to be placed in the Emperor's hands, three reports—one, on the state of the Jews in Russia; another, on that of the Jews in Poland; and the third, on the state of their education in Russia and Poland.
Sir Moses, however, being mindful of the condescension shown to and confidence reposed in him by his late Imperial Majesty the Emperor Nicholas, considered the reports as private and confidential communications, and would not publish them during His Majesty's lifetime. Now that both the Emperor and Sir Moses are no more in the land of the living, history demands the publication of what Sir Moses communicated to His Majesty.
I therefore place before the reader in the following pages exact copies of the reports in question, the full particulars of which he has undoubtedly, in the interests of humanity, the right to know.
I shall also give the Ministers' reply, made by command of the Emperor, showing that His Majesty was fully informed of all the communications which Sir Moses made to him, and had given orders for the formation of a committee to examine the statements therein made to him, with a view to improve the condition of his Jewish subjects.
The first and second of Sir Moses' reports are addressed to Count Kisseleff, and the third to Count Ouvaroff.
"To His Excellency, le Comte de Kisseleff, Ministre du domaine de l'Empire, de sa Majeste l'Empereur de Russie, &c., &c., &c.
"May it please your Excellency,—In addressing your Excellency after my return from Russia to this country, I deem it an imperative duty to express again to your Excellency the deep sense of gratitude I feel for the distinguished honour which has been conferred upon me by His Imperial Majesty, in granting me so gracious a reception, and to assure your Excellency that the kind promises which I have received from that most exalted and magnanimous Monarch, and his enlightened Ministers, to promote the welfare of my co-religionists dwelling in His Majesty's vast empire, have not only been a source of great delight to the Israelites in Russia, and to their brethren in England, but have very extensively afforded great satisfaction to the friends of humanity throughout Europe.
"The perusal of the very important documents which your Excellency was pleased to place in my hands previously to my departure from Saint Petersburg, gave me an additional proof of the paternal principle entertained by His Imperial Majesty towards his Hebrew subjects; and when that august Monarch graciously intimated to me that I should go and see the state of my brethren, I hailed the opportunity which was thus afforded to me to communicate to them the good intentions of the Government, and to persuade them cheerfully to conform to the benevolent intentions of their wise and powerful Monarch.
"It is now my momentous task in compliance with your Excellency's benign suggestion, to report to your Excellency the result of my visit to His Majesty's Hebrew subjects, and I feel confident that your Excellency will deign to regard my communication with the indulgent attention and consideration which the cause of philanthropy has ever received from your Excellency, the more so as I have the gratifying promise of your Excellency to place my representation in the hands of His Majesty, whose great object it has ever been to adopt every suitable measure for securing the moral and physical welfare of every subject under His Imperial sway.
"From the information which I gathered during my sojourn among the various Hebrew congregations in Russia, confirmed by my own personal observation, I am enabled to affirm that my brethren in His Majesty's empire are fully sensible of the good intentions of His Majesty's Government, that they speak with enthusiasm of the magnanimity of their mighty Sovereign; and declare their readiness at all times and under all circumstances to serve their country to their latest breath.
"It did not, however, escape my notice that there exist some obstacles which prevent the benign rays of His Majesty's mercy from imparting to His Hebrew subjects the full measure of comfort to which the wise and just general laws of the Russian Government would entitle them; I therefore, with your Excellency's permission, will now briefly repeat the advantages granted to them by their excellent Monarch, and venture to describe briefly to what extent and by what measures they are administered to the Israelites. I shall, at the same time, not withhold from your Excellency some observations upon the charges preferred against them, which I will leave to the wise and profound judgment and candid and indulgent consideration of your Excellency.
"In the document your Excellency was pleased to hand me it is stated to the effect—That the union of the Polish Provinces with Russia was for the Israelites a new epoch; that the Imperial Government not only allowed them, like its other subjects, to partake of all civil rights, and granted them permission to be received in the corporation of the body of town merchants, but also accorded them the privilege of taking part in the elections, and of being themselves eligible to become members of common councils, and to fill other local offices. Besides this, they were permitted to acquire immoveable property, and to settle as agriculturists, either on their own estates or on the lands of the crown, in which latter case Government also granted them support and freedom from all taxes, the Israelites also enjoying the right of settling in seventeen Governments (a superficies of 17,000 square miles) among a population of twenty millions of inhabitants, in countries where, by means of the harbours of the Black Sea (and in part through those of the Baltic), a lively commercial intercourse is kept up both in Russia and with foreign countries, have had, it is stated, all possible means in their hands of turning their activity to useful objects, and of establishing their prosperity upon a safe basis.
"The knowledge that such privileges have been accorded cannot but excite a deep and universal gratitude towards His Imperial Majesty for the paternal care which has thus been taken of his Hebrew subjects. But on a careful examination into the condition of the Israelites in some places situated within the above named 17,000 square miles, causes appear to prevail owing to which they do not actually derive from these enlightened measures the advantages they were intended to confer.
"I would respectfully invite your Excellency's attention to the circumstance that in the entire Government of Livonia there is only the city of Riga in which the Israelites are permitted to dwell, and there only to the number of about one hundred families. In Courland only those Israelites who were present in the year 1799 and their families are permitted to remain, but even those who have acquired the rights of citizenship are greatly restricted in their respective trades, for a Ukase, dated in April 1835, declares the Israelites in Mitau, in consequence of a privilege granted to the Christians of that city in the year 1785, disqualified to be received into the Christian corporations of the body of tradesmen or mechanics. The result of such a restriction is that the Israelite is never regarded as a master tradesman, and therefore cannot employ in his service either a journeyman professing the Christian religion or one who adheres to the principles of his own religion. He is likewise prohibited from keeping apprentices even of his own creed. Thus the Israelite is prevented from following any trade that requires particular assistants; he cannot with any prospect of success become a joiner, locksmith, blacksmith, or bricklayer, nor can he do the work of any mechanic where the aid of other persons is absolutely requisite. The disadvantages which he must labour under are indeed numerous. Where there is a large family, and the children are of tender ages, it becomes scarcely possible for the parent to maintain them, and it must be evident that when men become enfeebled by old age, or afflicted by bodily infirmity, they can no longer exert personally the labour which their business requires, and thus they become utterly destitute; and when a parent dies his children, if not sufficiently advanced in years to have acquired from him a knowledge of his trade (to which he dared not apprentice them), must relinquish it altogether.
"Your Excellency may perhaps think me wrong in this assertion, the former Governor General, the Marquis Paulucci, having in the year 1820 interceded in the Israelites' behalf, and obtained permission that they should in future enjoy the privilege of teaching their children their respective trades. This privilege has, however, again been taken away from them. In the course of time most of the operative class thus naturally became poor, to such a frightful degree that the community is obliged to furnish them with the necessaries of life. It may be said that Israelites who cannot follow the trade of their parents need not become a burthen on the congregation; an imperial Ukase having been issued in April 1835 to the effect that the Israelites in Courland should enjoy the right of keeping, either by rent or obrok, farms, inns, or baiting stables; but your Excellency will please to remember that this privilege was soon recalled. And, moreover, for some cause the Hebrews were ordered to quit the frontiers of Courland, as well as all the other places situated near the sea shores; and to withdraw fifty wersts into the interior of the country, which latter decree deprives them of the right to inhabit nearly one-third of that Gubernium. In the same province the Israelites are not only prohibited from settling with their families, but are prevented by the law from becoming contractors to the Crown and undertaking the erection of any government building, even though they might be merchants of the first or second guild. Neither are they suffered to sell goods by wholesale under their own firm.
"Your Excellency will give me leave also to advert to the expulsion of my brethren from the city of Kiew, where they are at present not allowed to remain even a single night; from the city of Nicolaiew, in the Gubernium of Kherson; the city of Swart-opol, in the Gubernium of Ekat-erinaslow; and all the villages situated in the Gubernium of Whitebsk, Moghilew, Tchornigow, and Voltawa, as well as all the other villages of those Guberniums situated within fifty wersts along the frontiers.
"If in consequence of the last Ukases the Israelites are also to be removed from all the towns and villages situate within fifty wersts of the Austrian and Prussian frontiers, and must quit every house where the sale of spirituous liquors is offered to the peasant, the number of exiles would surely equal the number of those who are already settled in the interior, and their fate cannot be any other than epidemic, disease, destitution, and starvation. This, as I had the honour of hearing personally from your Excellency, is not and never can be the intention of that great and most benevolent Monarch whose anxiety for the welfare of all his faithful subjects is so well known to all the world.
"With respect to commerce, the above-named space of land of seventeen thousand square miles, if available to the Israelites, as was originally intended, would, in the opinion of most of them, afford sufficient scope for securing a flourishing state of commerce amongst them. There are, however, some disadvantages against which the Hebrew merchants have daily to contend, and unless these be removed, the mere extent of land constituting the field for their exertions would not insure to them those advantages which they might have expected to realise from the benevolent intentions of their illustrious monarch. Merchants professing any other faith, either purchase their stock in the interior of Russia, or proceed to foreign countries and import it from them. But the Hebrew merchants have no permission to travel into the interior of Russia, with the exception only of those of the first and second guilds, whose privilege is restricted to making one journey for goods in the course of the year to Moscow; their sojourn in that city being limited—as respects the former to six months, and the latter to three months. Were they permitted to visit Moscow and other places at such times as their business might require, they would thus have sufficient opportunity for the necessary replenishment of their warehouses with the newest fashions in proper season during the year, which they cannot do if they are bound to lay in at once a stock for the whole year; and it is often the case that the purchases they have made in Moscow by the time they arrive at their destination are out of fashion. The Hebrew merchant is obliged to appear personally at Moscow, and dares not send his agent there to transact his business.
"Your Excellency will be pleased to consider the great expenses he must incur before he has the opportunity of offering his goods for sale, and the impossibility of his becoming prosperous in business whilst he is obliged to repair to Moscow for such goods as his Christian neighbour can import from the nearest factory in the interior of the land.
"The imperial city of Saint Petersburg the Israelite must never visit on commercial business; he is only allowed to appear there in connection with a law suit, or in some other particular occasion, of very rare occurrence. The Hebrew merchant thus has to contend with numerous difficulties in being obliged to import his goods from foreign countries, for the duty he has to pay on them is exceedingly high, therefore making it impossible for him to compete with his Christian neighbour. These disadvantages have reduced the commerce of the Israelites to a deplorably low ebb, and are banishing prosperity from amongst them. And it is a fact that in one of the principal cities where formerly there were thirty Hebrew Moscow merchants, there are at present only two, and these can only preserve their commercial standing by extreme exertion.
"Your Excellency will further condescend to take into consideration that there are various other disadvantages which the Israelites have to contend with, and which I shall merely mention in a few words for fear of encroaching upon your Excellency's most valuable time. His Majesty's Hebrew subjects are deprived of their congregational unions known by the Hebrew term Kahal, and are thus debarred from the advantage of any great measure for their common relief, which might otherwise be effected through the community. The Kahal served as a central point in which every individual had an interest, and there were able to do something for the amelioration of their own town in particular cases, which cannot be done now. It is true their financial affairs are generally under the best care, being administered by the members of the Town Hall (Dume), where according to His Majesty's gracious Ukase, Israelites are entitled to be admitted; yet it appears they are excluded from the enjoyment of this privilege in some important cities where they were first refused admission as members of the magistracy, and subsequently excluded from participating in the administration in the Town Hall. The Israelites, under these circumstances, greatly suffer from the dissolution of their congregational unions. A Hebrew is not allowed to engage the assistance of any Christian servant, neither is he permitted to settle as an agriculturist within four or five wersts from the habitation of a Christian. He is not permitted to keep posting establishments. He is further prohibited from keeping brewhouses either in towns or villages. A Hebrew, when serving in the army or navy of His Majesty, can never rise even to become a subaltern. The Israelite suffers from all the above-named restrictions, notwithstanding the distinct desire of His Imperial Majesty that he should be allowed to partake of all civil rights like all the other subjects of His Imperial Majesty. I have thus endeavoured to present to your Excellency a brief view of some of the causes which operate to deprive my brethren of the full enjoyment of those privileges intended for them by their illustrious and most humane Sovereign.
"There are, however, other causes which I fear also tend to this unhappy result. I refer more particularly to certain charges made against the Israelites, too important to be passed over unnoticed, and which, entreating your Excellency's kind attention, I will now proceed to enumerate and comment upon.
"I have ascertained on enquiry that the following charges are preferred against the Israelites, viz.:
"That they are inclined to an idle course of life, and prefer petty commerce to agriculture; hence the prohibition not to live in Old Russia.
"That they impose upon the peasant, and in return for a small quantity of spirit, deprive him of all his property (hence the removal from all the villages in the Guberniums of Whitebsk and Moghelew).
"That all of them living near the frontiers have the reputation of dealing in contraband goods; hence the removal from all the towns and villages within the fifty wersts.
"In answer to the above accusations in general, your Excellency will permit me to say that I am far from being inclined to aver that an Israelite of a bad disposition is less capable of doing wrong than any other individual of bad principles belonging to any other creed, but I feel confident that a wise and just Government, like that of His Imperial Majesty, will not deem it right to punish many thousands of its Hebrew subjects for the transgressions of a few. Let him who offends against the law of the country, or violates the rights of his fellow creatures, be punished, but let all the rest enjoy the comfort designed for them by their magnanimous Monarch. I entreat your Excellency to consider that the number of Hebrews who maintain themselves by commercial enterprises is but a small portion of the whole, for, as I had the opportunity of seeing, most of them are either mechanics or common labourers; they do not appear to be of idle disposition; on the contrary, they seek work as far as they are permitted to extend their movements. In all those Guberniums where Israelites have the privilege of settling, there are some of them who are tailors, shoemakers, farriers, glaziers, &c., &c., others who employ themselves with a more laborious occupation, as that of a blacksmith, locksmith, bricklayer, carpenter, &c. There is a class which may be reckoned amongst the artizans, such as watchmakers and goldsmiths, and another, which may be considered as a most numerous one, is that which consists of people who break stones on the chaussees, cut wood for fuel, or dig the ground and carry water, or remove heavy loads from one place to another. Your Excellency will, I believe, bear me out in this statement, for the Israelites to this very day remember with gratitude when your Excellency, in the spring of 1845, feelingly expressed your approbation to General Bulmering of his having allowed the Israelites to break stones on the road. There is also another instance which speaks favourably for the Israelites in this respect. I allude to two of the finest houses at Wilna, the one belonging to Count Teschkewetz, and the other to the nobleman Wilgatzke, but inhabited by the present civil Governor, both of which were entirely constructed by the Israelites. This, I venture to say, is a satisfactory proof of their being most anxious to work, and if the fact of their being seen walking about the streets without any occupation be urged against my assertion, I may be permitted to answer in their defence that want of work (within the boundary of those places where they are authorised to live) may be assigned as the cause of it; for the Israelite cannot, like his Christian neighbour, quit one Gubernium and repair to another, where he may be sure to find occupation.
"Indeed there are often a great many Christian labourers to be seen in the Jewish Guberniums, in consequence of their business being slack in their own district.
"Your Excellency will now permit me to state my humble opinion with regard to the accusation of the Israelites feeling disinclined to cultivate the land. The great facilities which His Majesty's benevolent Government afforded me for the purpose of having the necessary intercourse with my brethren, enabled me to learn that they were always desirous, and are at present most anxious to devote themselves to agriculture. I shall adduce the following statement in support of this assertion:—In the year 1835, when His Imperial Majesty most graciously declared that the Israelites should cultivate the land, a great many of them shewed their willingness to desert their homes and move even to the remotest parts of the country. Unfortunately after several hundreds of Israelites had sold all their moveable and immoveable property to repair to Tobolsk and Omsk, in Siberia (these two places having been assigned to them), and actually succeeded, though not without great sufferings on the road, in reaching, with their wives and children, the above-named colonies, it was intimated to them that the land was not to be cultivated by the Israelites. In the year 1840, a great many families went to Kherson for the same purpose, but a considerable number of them on their arrival found their plans frustrated. They were most kindly treated, it is true, by His Excellency the Governor of Wilna. Every adult received forty-eight copecks banco assignations, and every child half that sum. They were also provided with the necessary vehicles for their conveyance, one being assigned to each family; but as they proceeded thence into the other Guberniums the adults received only twenty-four copecks banco and the children twelve copecks banco each, and the number of vehicles was reduced to one for every two families. The emigrants had to wait several days before the vehicles were ready for their use, during which time they were not provided with the necessary diet money. They were further furnished with boats for the purpose of performing part of the journey on the river Berezina and Dnieper. The money requisite to pay the hire of these boats was deducted from the amount allotted for their diet. The Israelites were assured that it would take them only a fortnight's time to make the passage on the rivers, and for this reason only received money to defray the expenses of their diet during that period; but the passage occupied seven weeks, and they had to sustain themselves out of their own means. Many of them were great sufferers from severe cold and hunger, and a considerable number who had not even the smallest coin beyond that which they received from Government, being left without food, whilst they had to endure the inclemency of the season, necessarily perished.
"The survivors, on arriving at the places of their destination, found that they could not obtain possession of the houses, agricultural implements, and cattle assigned for them in the month of May in accordance with the decree of His Majesty's Government, but had to wait for them until the month of August, and for the articles furnished to them which were of a very bad description, they were subject to a charge considerably exceeding their value.